Der Klassiker isn’t the only big Bundesliga clash this weekend. Bayer Leverkusen’s recent attacking revival faces another stern test as Heiko Herrlich’s men take on the league’s best defensive outfit, RB Leipzig.There's little denying that most Bundesliga eyes will be on one match in particular this weekend. If you want to find out why you shouldn't miss this installment of Der Klassiker, have a read of this. Want to know what our reporters think will happen? That one is here.
Though for many German fans, RB Leipizig and Bayer Leverkusen share a few undesirable corporate traits, the contrasts between the two sides are what stand out ahead of their Matchday 11 meeting on Sunday afternoon.
While Leverkusen clinched an early berth in the Europa League knockout rounds on Thursday, Leipzig's loss to Celtic leaves them with plenty to do. While the Werkself languish in the bottom half, the Red Bulls are right in the chasing pack. And while Heiko Herrlich's team have served up a feast of goals recently, Ralf Rangnick's men haven't conceded in their last four league games.
"Keeping it tight at the back is the key to our game," said the interim Leipzig coach after last week's 3-0 win over Hertha Berlin. "All the lads work hard off the ball, and really enjoy keeping a clean sheet."
If Leverkusen's players also enjoy shutting their opponents out, it's not a pleasure they've been able to indulge often. Bayer have conceded more league goals than all but promoted Düsseldorf and bottom club Stuttgart, recording just two clean sheets in their 10 league games.
"In the games at Werder Bremen [a 6-2 league win] and at Gladbach [a 5-0 German Cup victory] we showed what our attacking players can do against well organized defenses, what we are capable of," said Herrlich.
"But we have definitely conceded too many goals — and not just last weekend [when they lost 4-1 to Hoffenheim]. Our primary target has to be to concede fewer goals… we have to be more solid. It's down to us all to defend better."
Kevin Volland, Julian Brandt and Karim Bellarabi, who is a doubt for the weekend after missing Thursday's win over Zurich, have formed a potent attacking blend but in the shape of Jonathan Tah, Sven Bender and Mitchell Weiser, Herrlich also has some talented players at the back. However, the former Germany striker has not been able to find a balance in the same way as Rangnick.
In his second spell as head coach while Leipzig await the arrival of Julian Nagelsmann, Rangnick's outfit have recovered from a poor start to emerge as one of the division's form sides. Since a matchday 5 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt, Leipzig's points tally is second only to leaders Borussia Dortmund and they've conceded just a late Andrej Kramaric consolation in victory over Hoffenheim.
With Timo Werner, Yusuf Poulsen and Jean-Kevin Augustin all among the goals this term, Rangnick's men pose a serious threat, especially to sides as porous as Sunday's visitors. A Leipzig win would leave Leverkusen 11 points behind their opponents, and potentially the Champions League spots, and would surely leave Herrlich's future in the balance over the international break.
Elsewhere on Matchday 11
– Along with Bayern, Dortmund, Leverkusen and Leipzig, Schalke and Frankfurt also meet this weekend. That Sunday game in Frankfurt means six of last year's top seven face each other in the space of just over 24 hours.
– While Der Klassiker is critical to the top of the table, Nuremberg vs. Stuttgart looks an early six-pointer at the wrong end.
– With Bayern and Dortmund kicking off late on Saturday, Werder Bremen and Borussia Mönchengladbach have a chance to put some pressure on the big two on Saturday afternoon.
Matchday 11 fixtures
Hannover vs. Wolfsburg (Friday, 20:30 CET)
Fortuna Düsseldorf vs. Hertha Berlin (Saturday, 15:30)
Freiburg vs. Mainz
Hoffenheim vs. Augsburg
Nuremburg vs. Stuttgart
Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach
Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich (Saturday, 18:30)
RB Leipzig vs. Bayer Leverkusen (Sunday, 15:30)
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Schalke (Sunday, 18:00)